How to prevent infection and manage symptoms
Anyone can become infected, but preschool and school-aged children are especially at risk during summer months.
Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can develop when a small cut or scratch becomes infected. Though this type of bacterial infection can affect adults, it is most common in children.
With an emphasis on preventing illness and encouraging the body’s natural tendency toward self-healing, osteopathic physicians (DOs) recommend taking precautions to avoid contact and limit spread of the infection. DOs look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors impact your wellbeing.
What causes impetigo?
Impetigo is caused by one of two bacteria:
- Streptococcus, which is the bacteria also responsible for strep throat, or staphylococcus. If impetigo is caused by streptococcus, it will begin with tiny blisters that eventually erupt revealing small, wet patches of red skin. Gradually, a tan or yellowish brown crust will cover the affected area giving the appearance that it is coated with honey.
- Staphylococcus, which may cause development of large blisters containing a clear fluid.
Can it be prevented?
Impetigo usually affects preschool and school-aged children, especially during the summer, and is more prevalent among patients suffering from other skin problems, such as eczema, poison ivy, or a skin allergy to soap.
You can prevent impetigo by keeping skin clean and taking extra care during the winter months, especially if you live in a cold climate. Osteopathic physicians recommend the following:
- Give your child daily baths or showers with anti-bacterial soap and warm water.
- Pay special attention to areas of the skin with rashes, cuts or scrapes. Keep those areas covered with clothing or a bandage, and try to keep your child from scratching.
- Wash hands regularly with soap and warm water.
- Keep nails trimmed and clean.
How should I treat the infection?
Impetigo is highly contagious, and easily spread by touching the affected area and then touching other parts of the body. The infection can also spread to other household members through clothing, towels and bed linens that have been in contact with the infected person.
If the infected areas are relatively small, you can try simple home remedies, including:
- Soak the infected area in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes, then scrubbing the area gently with a washcloth and antibacterial soap.
- Apply antibiotic ointments.
- Cover the area with gauze or a loose plastic bandage.
- To prevent spread of the infection to other family members, use a clean towel with each washing and separate contaminated items from other laundry.